BLOG: Millennials Lobby For Climate Action in London ON
by Mary Blake Bonn, CCL London group leader and founder. PhD student in the Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario
Last fall, Citizens’ Climate Lobby London had the pleasure of performing a collaborative project with students in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Western Ontario in London. The five students were enrolled in Health Sciences 3290A: Special Topics in Health Promotion – Environmental Health Promotion, which offered the opportunity to undertake a Community Engaged Learning (CEL) project. Western’s CEL program allows students to complete a project in partnership with a community organization. I was thrilled when Kelly Hollingshead, the coordinator of the CEL program, contacted me to ask if CCL London was interested in acting as a community partner for a CEL project.
The primary goal of this particular project was to get the students involved in the political process using CCL’s grassroots lobbying approach. Because the project was part of a health sciences course, we chose climate change and public health as our overarching topic. Using CCL’s Laser Talks as a jumping-off point, each student picked a more specific topic in which to become our group’s expert. The project culminated in the students lobbying two of our London-area MPs.
Samanta Krishnapillai chose to focus on the effects of climate change on human health in the developed world. Giouzelin Mutlu wrote about the socioeconomic effects of climate change. Rishika Sharma discussed the effects of climate change on women. Nicholas Terry wrote about the particular dangers of tar sands oil, and by extension, tar sands expansion. Gurvir Kalsi chose to leave us on a positive note by explaining how Canada can transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
The students and I had the opportunity to lobby Irene Mathyssen (NDP, MP for London—Fanshawe) and Kate Young (Liberal, MP for London West). Sharing their research with our MPs as part of the ongoing fight for bold action on climate change proved to be quite a positive experience for the students. After meeting with Irene Mathyssen, Samanta told me that lobbying had reminded her of why she’s studying health sciences in the first place: to make a difference in the world.
Western’s campus newspaper, The Gazette, took a particular interest in our project. Their article can be found here. While many courses at Western have a CEL component, our project was the first to include a field trip to our local MPs’ offices. CEL director Kelly Hollingshead attended one of the lobby meetings with us, and said that our project was different from any CEL project she’d seen before. The students appreciated the opportunity to apply their work in a very direct way. As Rishika told The Gazette, “A lot of the things that we do for school are project based, so we can get the mark, but I think with going and meeting with someone like that it was more than just, ‘Let’s do it for the project.’ ”
Irene Mathyssen was particularly pleased with the work that the students had done, and asked us for a compilation of their research to share with her colleagues. I hope they will agree that these five Western students have done admirable work, and that their passion for creating positive change is exactly what Canada needs.
There are many who express concern that my generation (the so-called Millennials) and the yet-to-be-nicknamed generation to which my students belong are apathetic. My experience with this CEL project gave quite the opposite reading. I had the pleasure of working with five third-year university students who are concerned about their future and want to do the work necessary to create the political will for a liveable world. I feel fortunate to live in a city that has an active and vibrant student community, and I hope to collaborate with Western again in the future.